He makes me lie down in green pastures

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters.

Psalm 23:2

When I’m tired and stressed, I like to head up to Reigate Hill on the North Downs near where I live. The views across the Weald to the South Downs are awesome. It makes me feel just a little less stressed and a little more normal just to sit there and relax.

When I’m really busy at work and feeling very stressed, however, it seems there’s no time to do anything but work. I’m sure you’ve been in a similar position and know for yourself that when you get in this position home life suffers and you find yourself being irritable with those who love you, and not making time for your friends. You even find yourself cutting yourself off from God, and not making time for Bible study and prayer.

God knows what is best for us, though, and if we let him, he will take care of us. He wants to lead us, shepherd-like, beside quiet waters. He wants us to lie down in green pastures. If we accept him as our shepherd and follow him like sheep, this will be a painless experience. There are times, though, when we refuse his leadership, when we think that we know better than he does, and we wander away from him. When we do this we can expect a slightly more abrupt leadership, however. He can make us lie down in green pastures of peace. This can feel as if a carpet is being pulled out from underneath us. There are times, though, when God has to show us that actually, he does know best. We have to trust in him, and realise that, as our creator, he knows better than anyone what we need.

If we allow God to lead us, he will help us to deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life. He will take us by the hand and lead us on that relaxing and restorative walk beside quiet waters to the green pastures that he has prepared for us.

Listen carefully to God today. Do you need to stop? Are you neglecting him, your family or your friends through working too hard? Stop and lie down in those green pastures now, otherwise you might find yourself being stopped, since God loves you and knows best!

David trusted that God would bring him peace in his life, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to lead us to peace and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

For more material on Psalm 23 and full details of my book, ‘The Shepherd God,’ check out the Shepherd God pages on this site.

As featured on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’ on Tuesday 14th April 2015.

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The Lord is my shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Psalm 23:1

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Christ the Good Shepherd

I’m slightly afraid to admit this on the radio, but I am a gadget fiend. Whenever a new product comes out, I find myself desperately wanting to buy one. I begin rationalising and convince myself that it’s not simply a case of wanting a new toy, but actually needing it. My life would be so much simpler if only I could have the latest gadget. I know I’m not alone in my feelings. This is, after all, how a capitalist marketplace works. We’re conditioned to want more, to desire better, and hang the expense.

Psalm 23 has proven to be a revelation in my life in recent years, so much so that I found myself writing a book about it. It’s a Psalm that we think we all know. Perhaps because it is so familiar to us, we don’t really think about its words.

‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ the Psalmist David begins. He himself had spent his early years tending his father’s flock, so he would have known exactly what it meant to be a shepherd. David knew that the most crucial role of a shepherd is to look after the material needs of his sheep. His sheep would be totally dependent on him for food and water. Without the shepherd, the sheep would surely die, since they would be unable to find food for themselves.

This is the image that David had of God: there was no doubt in his mind that God fulfils the same role for his people. He knew that God looked after him as he looked after his sheep. He trusted God to take care of all of his material needs. He believed this to the extent that he could say with confidence, “I lack nothing.” He knew that all he needed would be provided to him by God.

Sometimes our desire for more material goods can actually make our lives more uncomfortable. We work long hours, we try to gain promotions, we neglect our families, we can even abandon God.

Perhaps rather than falling into the trap of materialism we should strive to be more sheep-like, trusting in God to provide for our needs, and finding contentment in what he has already graciously given us, rather than constantly striving for more and more.

David trusted that God would provide all that he needed, and said with confidence, “the Lord is my shepherd.” I wonder if we can trust in God to provide our needs and say, “the Lord is OUR shepherd?”

For more material on Psalm 23 and full details of my book, ‘The Shepherd God,’ check out the Shepherd God pages on this site.

As featured on Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Inspirational Breakfast’ on Monday 13th April 2015.

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The peace of water

You [God] covered it [the earth] with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

Psalm 104:6-13

A mountain stream

A mountain stream

I seem to be subconsciously drawn to water. I’ve moved around a great deal in my life, but the majority of the homes that I’ve lived in have been next to water – rivers, ponds or lakes. Perhaps that’s what has led me to take up water sports; I love sailing, swimming and kayaking, but will happily turn my hand to most other water-based activities. I wonder if I’m alone in feeling an attraction to water? I’ve often wondered if all humans have some kind of magnetic attraction to water. After all, the typical human body is about 60% water.

I think that attraction to water is one of the reasons why I love these particular verses of Psalm 104. They describe beautifully God’s work with water, at creation and beyond. This section of the Psalm begins by describing how God initially covered the earth with water, before he rebuked them and they receded to the places that he had assigned for them. The power of God truly knows no bounds; his creation responds to his command, and even the waters obey him.

The Psalmist continues by highlighting the life-giving nature of water. He talks of mountain springs, which as anyone who has ever sat by one will attest, seem to radiate a quiet restfulness as they trickle through the landscape. Water sustains the birds and the animals, the Psalmist sings, and enable trees to grow which provide homes for the birds. Finally in this section, the Psalmist talks of God watering the mountains, satisfying the land; in other words, it is he who brings the rain that fills the rivers that provide the water that sustains all life on our planet. Without his life-giving goodness, God’s creation would shrivel and die. It is only as a result of his goodness and his generosity that life continues to this day.

There’s a quiet beauty in this Psalm that to me mirrors the landscapes that the Psalmist describes. Water is pure, life giving, and life sustaining. Water refreshes physically, whilst rivers, streams and the sea have the potential to refresh mentally too. All this comes from God, who is gracious in his provision and in control of nature. What a wonderful thought on this busy day? Let’s give thanks to God today for the water of life.

God is our God for ever and ever

For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end.

Psalm 48:14

Marks and Spencer, Crawley. © Copyright Roger Cornfoot and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Marks and Spencer, Crawley. © Copyright Roger Cornfoot and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

I began my working life as a temporary seasonal sales assistant for Marks and Spencer in Crawley. The role was for a couple of months over the busy Christmas period. Since, at that time, I hoped to build a career in retail, I was overjoyed and delighted when my role was made permanent at the beginning of January. As it happens, the permanence of that particular role was somewhat limited, as I left in May to take on the permanent role of Junior Manager within the company. Actually, that role was not particularly permanent either, as they made me redundant less than a year later. Of course, the reality is that whilst we may speak of something being permanent, it seldom is. Circumstances change, people move away, companies close down, people die. When you think about it, the word ‘permanent’ is something of a misnomer.

That is, until you get to the verse that we’re looking at today. Here, in the concluding verse of this thought-provoking psalm (do read the full thing), the Psalmist tells us that God ‘is our God for ever and ever’. God won’t abandon us. If we accept Jesus as our saviour he won’t reject us. He won’t change his mind in a few years time and move on. God is our God for ever and ever. That’s quite a revelation, and one that, as human beings with a limited grasp of the infinite, we can find quite difficult to comprehend. It is deeply reassuring, however. God will be with us until the end of our lives – and beyond! God’s permanence stretches beyond the grave too!

The Psalmist also tells us that God ‘will be our guide even to the end’. God will be our shepherd, leading us along the right paths, across green pastures, beside still waters, and yes, even on occasions through the darkest valleys of our lives. The key is, though, that through all of this, God guides and leads us. When we follow his paths he supports us and blesses us. Once more, this is a permanent arrangement. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he will lead us safely through death and into his permanent, perfect kingdom on the other side. With God as our guide, there really is nothing to fear!

So today, rejoice that God is our God for ever. Give thanks that amidst all the impermanence of our daily lives, God is permanent, always there, for ever. Rejoice too that God is a faithful guide, never abandoning us or leaving us to our own devices, but lovingly guiding us through life, through death, until we join him in glory in his eternal kingdom. Even then his leadership will not end. Wow!

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

Psalm 24:1-2

Our Plant Earth, By خالد منتصف (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Our Plant Earth, By خالد منتصف (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m old enough that when I was at school I had CDT, or Craft, Design and Technology lessons. The lessons, overseen by Mr Rooth and Mr Hallpike, were always a rather bizarre feature of the week. We’d spend many lessons planning an item to build, and then the class would divide in two, with Mr Rooth taking a metalwork class and Mr Hallpike taking a woodwork class. Despite the fact that I was not particularly good at CDT, I did make a number of items of which I was very proud, including several wooden boxes, a wooden mirror and a metal coat hook. These were usually given to my parents who lovingly looked after them and kept them safe. I enjoyed giving my handiwork to my parents because they always seemed to value my creations very highly and I knew that they were in safe hands.

I love the opening lines of Psalm 24, which always bring to mind a rather cheesy song that we used to sing at church. The simple statements of the Psalmist, as usual, hide a wealthy of thought provoking ideas, that are particularly pertinent today. “The earth is the Lord’s,” David reminds us, as is everything in it.

We live in an age, and in a society, that treasures possessions. Accumulation of wealth, land and ‘stuff’ has become second nature to us, no matter how affluent we are. People crave a bigger house, or the latest phone, or the most contemporary fashions. Yet all of this comes from God. Everything that we think we own we actually borrow from God. Everything on the earth – including everything that we have – belongs to God. We are merely stewards, entrusted with looking after the earth and everything in it for God. I wonder whether you think you individually and we as a global community are doing this well? Do you think that God is happy with the way that we are looking after his creation? Or do you think we have a lot to answer for?

Why does God have a claim on the earth and everything in it? For the simple fact, the Psalmist tells us, that he made it. He created the land on which we stand, having separated it from the water. If God wanted to, he could easily sweep everything under the water, flooding the earth, but he doesn’t, because he loves us.

Do we return God’s love? Do we respect his creation? Do we look after the earth that he has made? Do we act as good stewards of all that he has given us? There’s much to consider within the two opening verses of this Psalm. Maybe we need to reflect on these words in the days ahead and consider our attitude to our planet, our possessions and our money – all of which have been entrusted to our stewardship by God.